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Wines add layer of flavor to slow-cooking stews

About Dave DeSimone
Picture Dave DeSimone
Freelance Columnist
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Dave DeSimone is a member of the American Wine Society. He can be heard daily on KQV Radio with the Wine Cellar reports. His Wine Cellar column appears Wednesdays in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

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By Dave DeSimone

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

After spending time outside on nippy afternoon, nothing satisfies the appetite better than a slowly cooked stew. Making a stew over a leisurely weekend leaves leftovers for enjoyment during the busy work week. Pairing the stew with a tasty bottle of wine enhances the pleasure.

Lapin au Vin Blanc à la Cocotte, a French fall favorite, calls for stewing rabbit in white wine in a Dutch oven. The rabbit tastes much like chicken, but adding carrots, potatoes, shallots, minced garlic, chopped bacon, thyme, bay leaves and creme fraiche creates savory and creamy notes.

Pair the stew with the 2011 Domaine Jean Chartron Bourgogne “Clos de la Combe” Chardonnay, France (Luxury 46946; $18.99). Located in the famed village of Puligny-Montrachet, Domaine Jean Chartron makes white wines from some of France's most famous chardonnay vineyards, such as Bâtard-Montrachet.

This tasty wine comes from flatter vineyards just outside the village of Puligny-Montrachet. The vines enjoy similar limestone and clay soils and the same relatively cool climate.

Using that fine breeding to full advantage, fermentation takes place in oak barrels with 10 percent new wood and the remaining barrels being one, two and three years old. Aging on the lees — spent yeast cells — for nine months adds elegant creamy touches.

The wine's antique-gold color provides apple, honey and light toasty aromas. Fresh apple and peach flavors layer in a creamy texture balance with bright acidity and fine tannins. The wine finishes dry, yet fresh and fruity. Highly recommended.

Sopa de Ajo, a rustic garlic soup from Spain's wind-swept Castile-La Mancha region, creates a delicious vegetarian choice. After starting with a basic vegetable stock, the standard recipe incorporates plenty of minced garlic, smoked paprika, toasted bread cubes and salt and pepper. Top the soup with an egg for the final touch.

Pair the Sopa de Ajo with the fruity red 2012 Viña Bujanda Rioja “Joven,” Spain (Luxury 32930; Chairman's Selection on sale: $8.99). The tempranillo grapes for this tasty wine come from the Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa, regions where a convergence of arid, rocky soils and climate provides ideal growing conditions.

The wine is fermented in stainless steel to highlight forward, ripe fruity traits. The “joven” designation indicates an absence of aging in oak barrels before bottling. The wine's dark purple color offers intense blackberry and cassis aromas. Ripe blackberry flavors layer in refreshing acidity and elegant, fine tannins. Highly recommended.

Winegrowers abhor wild boars. The irascible, tusked creatures roam vineyards, greedily enjoying bunch after bunch of ripening grapes, often trampling vines in the process. By combatting the problem, winegrowers subsequently have plenty of wild boar meat in the freezer.

Tuscany's Spezzatino di Cinghiale or Wild Boar Stew makes a favorite fall dinner. The cubed boar meat slowly stews with red wine, beef broth, pureed tomatoes, onions, carrots, and celery. Locally, Strip District Meats offers wild boar as a specialty item.

Pair the stew with the 2009 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico, Italy (Luxury 46313; $18.99) Since the Middle Ages, this estate has made wine and olive oil in the heart of Chianti's traditional center. For the last 150 years, the Stucchi Prinetti family has managed the estate that today produces around 400,000 bottles of wine annually.

This wine comes from classic sangiovese and cannaiolo vines grown with organic methods in clay and limestone soils. After hand picking, a careful, final sorting at the winery ensures only fully ripened, undamaged fruit going into the fermentation. Aging occurs in large French and Austrian oak casks to lend subtle tannins and spiciness.

The resulting wine unfolds a light ruby color with black cherry and raspberry aromas accented by underlying toasted almond notes. Red fruit flavors balance with uplifting acidity and elegant, smooth tannins. The elegant, dry finish lingers pleasantly with red fruit notes. Recommended.

Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at



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